BTP How To: Slate Tile Roof Repair

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How To by ChadM

Durable Slate Roof Tiles Can Be Repaired

Slate Tile Roof

Slate tile roofs are beautiful and can last for 100 years or more.

Slate tile is a very durable roofing material; many a slate roof have been in place for 100 years or more and are still holding up. As durable as slate tiles are they still need the occasional repair. Slate tile pieces break from wind or hail damage and the most common repair I see is from gutters being installed with roof straps face nailed through the slate. Repairing slate roofing can be difficult – it is not recommended to walk a slate roof and they are brittle when direct pressure is placed on them. Typically the nails are buried under a few layers of rigid slate, and once you have the old slate removed fastening a new slate tile piece can be tricky. There are tools and methods to get around these difficulties, making a slate roof repair a fairly simple process.

The Tools and Materials You’ll Need to Repair a Slate Tile Roof

To perform a slate tile roof repair you will need a few essential tools and materials:
Ladder Ridge Hooks
Slate Ripper
• Metal Flashing
Roofing Nails
• Roofing Tar
• Slate Hooks
• Carbide Tipped Cutter
• Brick Trowel
Cordless Drill and Drill Bit

Accessing Slate Tile Roof Repairs

In order to safely access a slate tile roof you need a pair of ladder ridge hooks. These steel hooks attach to a section of an extension ladder and hook over the ridge of the roof, securing the ladder in place. The ridge hooks have wheels on the front side so the user can roll the ladder up and down the roof without dragging on top of the slate.

Slate tile roof repair - ladder hooks.            Slate tile roof repair - ladder set up.

Removing Broken Slate Tile on Roof

Now that you are safely set up you need to remove the damaged pieces of slate tile without damaging the pieces around it. To do this you need a slate ripper; this tool is a long, thin piece of metal with sharpened hooks on one end and an offset handle on the other end. The hooked end is slid under the piece of slate tile and hooked on the nails holding it in place. A few sharp hits on the handle with a hammer and the nails are sheared, freeing the slate.

Slate tile roof repair - slate tile ripper in action.           Slate tile roof repair - hammer with slate tile ripper.

Installing the New Slate Tile Roof Shingles

Once the slate roof tile is removed you need to install the new piece. What if the new pieces of slate you have need trimmed to fit? There are special shears for cutting slate but lacking those special shears a few common hand tools work just as well. I use a carbide tipped cutter (like those used to cut laminate) to score my piece; once the piece is scored I place the score mark on the edge of a solid surface like a piece of plywood. Once the slate is set I simply break it along the score line with a brick trowel.

Slate tile roof repair - carbide tipped cutter.        Slate tile roof repair - score slate tiles.       Slate tile roof repair - trowel for knocking off uneven edge after score.       Slate tile roof repair - knocking scored edge off with trowel.

Now that the piece is cut to fit you are ready to install it. There are two different methods I use to attach the new slate tile. One method is with slate hooks, the other is the nail-and-bib method.

Using Slate Hooks to Repair Slate Tile Roof Shingles

Slate hooks are a pre-formed metal hook (usually either stainless steel or copper – I prefer stainless steel) that nail to the decking and the slate tile slides down into a hook. You simply nail the hook down, slide you slate past the hook then slide it back down until it is hooked. The hook stops the slate from sliding out and the slate on either side stops any sideways movement.

Slate tile roof hook.         Slate tile roof repair - slate hook detail 1.        Slate tile roof hook installed.

Using the Nail and Bib Method to Repair Slate Tile Roof Shingles

The nail-and-bib method is also pretty straightforward for a slate tile roof repair. For this method you put your new piece of slate in place and fasten it with a nail placed in the slot between the pieces above the new slate. I always use a cordless drill to drill the hole for the nail to prevent any breakage. Once the nail is set, tap it flush with a nail set. To prevent any leaks the nail is covered with a piece of flashing (the bib); I use aluminium coil stock cut into small squares for my bibs. I hand bend the bib and slide it under the slate to cover the nail. The bend provides enough tension to hold the bib in place but I also put a dab of roofing tar on the nail head before sliding the bib in place; this gives a little extra protection and the tar ensures that the bib won’t go anywhere.

Slate roof repair - pre-drilling holes for nail and bib method.         Slate tile roof repair - bib detail.

Slate tile roof repair - finished repair.

Slate tile roof repair – finished repair looks just like new.

These simple repair techniques can go a long way to extending the life of slate roof tiles. The house I performed this tile roof repair on was built in 1903 and the slate was the original roof; the slate tile repair I made to it will help this 111 year old roof further stand the test of time and weather. Hopefully the slate tile roof will still be there for another 100 years.





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6 comments on “BTP How To: Slate Tile Roof Repair

    1. Chad

      I used to have a hand shear but it was my grandfathers and it finally just wore out. For the amount of slate I do anymore it wasn’t worth buying a new shear.

  1. Michael

    Interesting article, I learned a few things. I have just a little experience with slate, and it didn’t go well. Working with it is not easy, but I now I know a few things for the next time it comes up.

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